Today in the mail arrived a resupply of Mama’s Special Blend Kathmandu Curry. My faithful Kali slave, Raj Khadka, has kindly honored me with a jar of this treasured spice mixture. Now, this isn’t just any curry. There is something magical and addictive in Mama’s blend. Don’t be deceived by the looks of the packaging—it’s usually in some old unlabeled jar like the ones that Nescafe comes in or a Ziploc baggie. (This time it is in a small Best Foods mayo jar.) And it always has a label – scrawled by Raj himself with a permanent black market, just in case I should forget what it is the sacred container. (As if!)
Rajendra is an old friend, not old like 95, but old as in I have known him for quite some time. He was born in Kathmandu, studied with Jesuits through high school, and then came to the States on scholarship for college. He has lived here most of his life, with the occasional two- or three-year stint back in Nepal. He is now married, to a most wonderful and tolerant woman, and lives in Atlanta, where he toils away at god-knows-what while his wife pursues her Ph.D. at Emory.
Initially, Raj would grace my kitchen and make batches of this golden blend, with me hovering over his shoulder trying to figure it out. (I even have a coffee grinder, permanently marked for curry use only.) While he was living in Nepal, he would send jars to me via any courier who happened to be coming to America. This latest batch was actually made by his mother, when she was last in America for a visit. It is one of my fondest desires to learn how to make this, but upon that request a few weeks ago, I was denied. Although Raj normally subscribes to the adage, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” he told me as long as he is able to provide me with the essence of my dal and fish curry, that there is no need to give me the recipe. While this profoundly saddened me, and my friend Tea, it just means I will have to keep harassing him on a regular basis.
Now, if I can only find the lentils up in my cupboard…..